At the California-based Yard House restaurants, the food selection is considerably smaller than the beer menu that's this saloon concept's novelty. Yard House claims to have "the world's largest selection of draft beer." Lest novice diners miss this point, the front door opens into a seemingly endless hallway with glass windows exposing an equally lengthy space stacked with shiny metal beer kegs. Tapped into each keg is a tube leading to a pipe that feeds into one of 14 thick metal conduits that soar over the dining room like a sculptural installation. These tubes, dramatically illuminated with amber bulbs, lead to 140 spigots at the boxcar-sized stainless steel bar.
Beer, with or without ice cream, is king at the Yard House, which is named for the skinny 36-inch glasses that were invented according to restaurant legend, anyway to "hand to stagecoach drivers back in the day when travel by horse-drawn carriage was common." It's hard for me to imagine a carriage driver wrestling with the reins of his team and a 3-foot-tall glass of ale, but the Yard House is sticking to its story.
Because modern drinkers drive cars instead of horse-powered wagons, the Yard House doesn't actually serve frosty, yard-long glasses of beer. "It's a lot of liquor, so there are liability issues about that," explained our server, Kayla, on the night that Bob, Melissa and I came to dine in the mammoth restaurant. "But we do have half-yard glasses."
Indeed they do, but the vessels are not for sloppy drunks: The Yard House adds a $10 charge to your bill if you break one. I pondered that as I sat and watched a twentysomething couple in matching tank tops awkwardly swill brew from a couple of those glasses they're taller than you think in a Rolling Rock reverie while their unsupervised toddlers wandered around the busy dining room.
"I see they have their priorities straight," Melissa said mockingly. She was impressed by the restaurant's vast array of beers, everything from Black Sheep Monty Python ale to Pabst Blue Ribbon. "There's even a beer called Hollywood Blonde," said Melissa, who used to be a Hollywood blonde at 20th Century Fox.
Not everyone in the place was hoisting a brew, though. There were some wine drinkers at the table to my left and a lady sipping a refreshing-looking mojito in the next booth.
Finding the perfect beverage is the easy part. Choosing judiciously from the food menu is a little riskier. My friend Christine had warned me about this; she had dined at the Yard House with friends one night, and of the half-dozen appetizers they'd shared, three were excellent but the other three weren't.
Our trio was lucky. We loved the superb Korean beef short ribs, tender and perfectly grilled with garlic and brown sugar (and sided with a large scoop of white rice) as well as the succulent grilled artichoke, served with a garlic aïoli and a pile of house-made potato chips. We shared one of the big salads, too a fresh and crunchy chopped salad with a punchy gazpacho dressing but had to divide it at the table ourselves.